I felt the stress accumulating in my body.
I was losing sleep, gaining weight, unable to concentrate. I knew that I needed to make some changes, but I wasn’t sure how.
I was drinking a glass of wine before bedtime each night, trying to get a good night’s sleep (which probably accounted for some of the weight gain). When wine became too expensive for both my waistline and my wallet, I opted for over-the-counter sleep aids.
The side effects and long-term health problems associated with these short-term “cures” had me shook. I didn’t want to destroy my liver just to get a few solid hours of shuteye.
Daily exercise helped some, as did eating most of my heavy carbohydrates at night to help contribute to my sleepiness. I still couldn’t concentrate though, and it had been months since I’d made it all the way through a novel or watched a film without becoming distracted.
I started to read more about the benefits of meditation and became intrigued. Was it possible that this ancient technique could be the modern-day cure for what ailed me?
Some of the benefits of introducing a mindfulness meditation practice into your routine include:
>> Decreased stress and anxiety: the very things that were keeping me up at night could, at last, be eradicated or at least alleviated
>> Increased concentration: by training your mind to be still and focused on meditative practice, it will eventually learn to be more focused in day-to-day life
>> Improve our commitment and ability to follow through: I’m one of the worst when it comes to finishing what I start, so this would be a game-changer for me
>> Better sleep: not just quantity of sleep (number of hours) but the quality of sleep, meaning that your brain shuts off and learns to just rest
It’s recommended by experts that we practice meditation at least five days a week for at least 20 minutes per day. While that does seem like a lot to a beginner, the goal is to gradually build up to that. So, five minutes a day in the beginning, or even just two minutes per day if you’ve got a monkey mind like mine, is a great place to start.
How to begin:
1. Set a time to practice each day and adhere to it—whether it’s first thing in the morning or just before you settle in for bedtime, write it into your schedule and stick to it.
2. Create the space for success. Make sure you’re in a quiet environment where you won’t be interrupted. For people with families, this can be the biggest challenge of them all, so if you need to awaken half an hour earlier in the morning to get your practice in before the kids wake up, by all means, set that alarm and do it. Make sure the room is as warm—or cool—as you need it to be. Go to the bathroom before you start so your bladder doesn’t distract you. Use earplugs or headphones to block out noises if you must. I’ve even employed an eye mask to prevent light from distracting me. Do what you need to do.
3. Employ the use of apps or media to help you along. There are literally dozens of apps now to guide you through starting a meditation practice. You can also find podcasts, YouTube videos, and audiobooks to help you learn. Using a guided meditation makes it easy for those initial five minutes to pass by without difficulty.
>> Try not to stress yourself out about learning to meditate. After all, you’re learning to relax, and that in itself should make you feel good.
>> Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about taking a few minutes of your day to build your meditation practice. It’s for your long-term health that you learn these skills.
>> Go easy on yourself. Learning to be more mindful means learning to live in the moment and find compassion for yourself and those around you.